by: Steve Suman
Discussions during the preceding weeks centered on IF ice-out would occur before or after the gamefish opener. In the end, most lakes were open, with only the deep, clear lakes retaining ice. Sunshine and warm temperatures made the weekend very pleasant for anglers – and for anyone recreating in the North Woods. This week, the forecast predicts somewhat cooler temperatures, with a few chances for rain, but fire danger is high and the area needs some moisture (in the form of rain, of course!)
Erik at Hayward Bait says it was a beautiful weekend for the fishing opener and anglers enjoyed good fishing.
“Great weather brought open water to many lakes and any ice still on the clear lakes should be gone soon. Water temperatures vary by lake, but range from the low to mid 50s.
“Walleye anglers found good action with fatheads and walleye suckers on jigs, as well as jig heads with plastics such as paddle-tail baits, swim baits, and grub tails. Start shallow and work baits out to deep edges and breaklines in 7-14 feet, though depths range from lake to lake.
“Bass anglers are catching fish on swim and jerk baits in 3-8 feet. Tube baits are another great option to find willing smallmouth and largemouth bass.
“Panfish fishing is strong, but with panfish pre spawn, anglers should look a touch deeper, from 7-15 feet. Best baits include ice jigs, plastics, tubes, and jigs tipped with waxies, crawlers, and crappie minnows jigged or under slip bobbers.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage had full open water for the gamefish opener, with the level 1-2 feet below full and water temperatures varying from 40-44 degrees in deeper water to the mid 50s in shallower bays.
“Walleye anglers reported catching high numbers of fish, with more size variety and larger fish than last year. Minnows and leeches, in that order, were the baits of choice, with artificials on target as well. Soft plastic minnow baits with swim jigs and small to medium crankbaits, especially #9 Countdown Rapalas, were very effective. Walleyes are in the West Fork, probably for the duration of this week.
“There were few northern pike reports, but given the time of year, stick to live bait, targeting shallow weeds along reedy shorelines with 4- to 5-inch suckers and chubs.
“Smallmouth season is not yet open, but a good number of walleye anglers reported catching many big smallmouth in the river channel. More than five anglers reported fish 20 inches and longer, with the largest 24 inches.
“Crappies are still deep and will probably not spawn for at least 1-2 weeks. Crappie anglers fishing deep holes reported limited success, but many 10- to 12-inch fish. Crappie minnows, Mini-Mites, and Crappie Scrubs are all effective.”
Jim at Minnow Jim’s says that although the ice was off Nelson Lake for the opener, the water temperature was only in the mid 40s and fishing was a little slow.
“Shallower bays and shorelines where the water is warmer are best, and a slow retrieval is the recommendation.
“Minnows and stickbaits will work for walleyes and northern pike. Panfish anglers should use minnows and crawlers on jigs and/or under bobbers.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses fishing party size.
“One of the many reasons that fishing is a great recreational pastime is that anglers can enjoy it alone or with a group of friends and family. What percentage of Wisconsin anglers fish alone? What is the average number when fishing in a group? Creel data from Sawyer County from 1990-2017, when dedicated DNR creel clerks interviewed 69,310 fishing parties, can give us answers to these questions.
“During that period, solo anglers made up about 25 percent of fishing ‘parties.’ Two people, about 48 percent of all fishing parties, were the most common party size. Trios came in at about 18 percent, with four-person groups 6 percent. Groups of five or more made up only 2.5 percent of all fishing parties, and 15 anglers comprised the largest group interviewed by creel clerks. Through time, those percentages have remained mostly steady.
“Another interesting observation is that as the group size increases, the number of harvested fish per person declines. Apparently, every fishing party has someone who pulls down the average.
“So – how many people are in your fishing party?”
The DNR advises homeowners to make weekly checks for windblown leaves and needles on the roof, around the foundation, and under decks and elevated porches. Keep these areas clean, as flying embers during a wildfire could easily ignite debris that collects in these places. For more information, search “fire” on the DNR website.
On May 14, 2013, the Germann Road fire consumed 7,499 acres and destroyed 104 structures (23 residences) in the towns of Gordon and Highland in Douglas County and Barnes in Bayfield County. A fifth anniversary commemoration of the fire is Saturday, May 12, from 10 a.m. to noon, at Barnes Town Hall. For more information, search “Germann Road fire” on the DNR website.
The Hayward Chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries will hold its 31st annual fishing event for people with disabilities Friday and Saturday, May 18-19, at Lake Chippewa Campground on the Chippewa Flowage. The two-day event, with up to 150 participants fishing from boats and pontoons – which for some is an experience that was once only a dream – is jam-packed with friends, fishing, evening meals, and fun. There is always a need for volunteers for various positions, as well as trustworthy operators for fishing and pontoon boats, and volunteers to sell raffle tickets throughout the summer. For more information, visit www.haywardfhnb.org, or call (715) 634-3185 or (800) 243-3462.
Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum (WCHM) in Spooner is offering a two-day canoe paddle making class Friday and Saturday, May 11-12. Participants will make a canoe paddle in a design of their own choosing, using traditional and modern tools and techniques. The instructor is Alex Comb of Stewart River Boatworks, Knife River, Minnesota. The class will provide all tools. The cost is $95, plus materials ($25 for basswood, $30 for cherry, and $35 for basswood bent shaft). Class size is limited to eight participants. For more information, or to register, call (715) 635-2479.
The 34th Annual Treeland Challenge catch and release bass and walleye tournament on the Chippewa Flowage is this weekend, May 10-13, offering thousands of dollars in contest and drawing prizes. Entry fees are $95/single, $160/with spouse, and $25/per child (17 years of age or younger) w/parent. For more information, visit www.treelandresorts.com or call (715) 462-3874.
Following weeks of worry, Hayward area lakes not only offered anglers open water for the gamefish opener this past weekend, they also provided good fishing. Although there is still some ice on a few of the deep, clear lakes, it should disappear in short order with the “warm” temperatures early this week.
Walleye fishing is fair to excellent, depending on the water... and the angler. Look for fish along breaklines and drop-off edges in depths out to 15 feet. Baits of choice include fatheads, walleye suckers, leeches, crawlers, stickbaits, and plastics on jigs.
Northern pike action is fair in shallower weedy areas. Larger minnows, stickbaits, and spinners can all get the interest of post-spawn pike.
Largemouth bass fishing is fair to good in/along shallow shorelines and bays with warmer water. Slow moving swim baits and other plastics work well.
Anglers should note smallmouth bass season in the North Zone is catch and release only until June 16. Use slow retrieves with soft plastics, swim baits, spinners, and crankbaits in mid-depths and river channels.
Crappies are still pre-spawn and holding in deeper water. Use jigs with crappie minnows, plastics, tubes, Mini-Mites, and Gulp! baits. Slip bobbers will hold baits at the proper depth – once you find it.
Find bluegills in depths out to 15 feet and in warmer bays and on south-facing shorelines. Best baits include waxies, worms, crawler pieces, tubes, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks, fished with or without slip bobbers.
May 10-13: 34th Annual Treeland Challenge bass and walleye release tournament (715-462-3874).
May 11-12: Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum canoe paddle making class (715-635-2479).
May 26: Muskellunge season opens north of Highway 10.
May 18-19: Fishing Has No Boundaries Hayward Annual Event (715-634-3185; 800-243-3462).
May 23: Fishing Has No Boundaries Kids Day at Nelson Lake.
June 2-3: Free Fun Weekend.
June 16: Northern zone smallmouth bass season goes from catch-and-release to daily bag limits (check regs).
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs for exceptions).
May 2-8: Period C
May 9-15: Period D
May 16-22: Period E
May 23-29: Period F